Hey there and welcome to another TTRPG Community interview! These are low key, prewritten interviews which are available to fill out on this page. If you are a part of the TTRPG space in almost any way at all, there should be something for you!
Today, we’re hearing from Tay, a TTRPG Streamer/Podcaster who you may also know as Cleo de Cap in Backwater Bastards!
Please introduce yourself and your stream or podcast!
Hi! I’m Tay (@TAYvanbiljon) and I stream with a lot of people- but my home is my podcast, Backwater Bastards!
If you are part of an AP, let us know about the setting of the game and your players (with their consent – feel free to add social media so folks can find and follow them).
We’re Backwater Bastards, and we’re telling the greatest best friend story in the universe! We make a sci-fi comedy improv show with zero scripting, immersive sound design and we’re building our own game system to help us stay as collaborative and dynamic as we always aim to be.
We’ve been our show since 2018, but this current campaign was born at the start of 2020.
It takes place… INNNNN SPACE! (ha), in a universe that came straight out of our DM DICK DYNAMITE’S head. He created this world and the system that we use to navigate it- and by playing the game we are testing it. One of our big dreams is to get it all down into a book- so we can share it.
I (@TAYvanbiljon) play Cleo de Cap, a human sleeved into an Ursine, my buddy Dan (@deadtoothbrush) plays Dr. Ze, an Atolla Medusa jellyspecies in a synthetic body, and DM Dick (@thedickdynamite) plays… well, nearly everyone else!
We love being guests and hosting guests, and we hope to make space for some more guest encounters soon. (We tell our story in little arcs, so finding the time can be challenging.)
But at the end of the day- our story is about semiordinary friends surviving a hostile universe. While some people are out there trying to save the world- we’re just trying to find the best place to eat.
It’s a harsh Galaxy out there, y’all. Being friends!
How did you get started with your stream or podcast? What motivated you to begin?
Dan grew up playing DnD with Dick, and he figured these stories needed to get out there. He gathered all of us together, and kicked this whole thing off. None of us would be here without him.
How far in advance do you plan your streams/episodes? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Dick is the DM, and he does think through plot arcs and storylines in his secret mind cave. But for the most part, we don’t script these out, we are playing them as we go.
Improvisation is a big part of our show, from the cold open intros, to the collaborative choice of constantly choosing to follow each other into the dark- no matter what.
We are all working in creative fields, so inspiration is constant. Everything we see or experience is free game.
We talk a lot, and we are constantly trying to improve what we make and how we make it- but when the mics are on, who knows where we’ll end up?
Tell us about a funny or embarrassing incident that happened while live or recording?
We’ve been making improv comedy since 2018 so believe me when I tell you that we are no longer able to feel real embarrassment anymore.
BUT in 2022 we got the chance to do some stage performances at MCM London Comic-Con! One of these was a ttrpg game show with Hamilton from Dragons Duel in the spirit of “Whose line is it anyway”.
I think I can speak for all of us when I say that for a full room of spectators, our inability to spell, sound out words, or remember simple spells like fireball (HEY we spend 90% of our time in our own system REMEMBER??), did not come close to the scene we slowly arranged our bodies into when we acted out a goblin exposing itself to an adventure party as part of a quest reward.
Something about being a remote group on a stage holding your fake robes up in front of countless gaping people just hits different.
What’s something new that you’ve learned about yourself since beginning your journey with streaming/creating a podcast?
This has made me a better person. I am a better designer at work, I am a faster thinker, I am an even more creative problem solver, I am an improviser, I am less afraid to jump into ANYTHING, I get in front of people with no trouble, I present better, I do karaoke, I take better care of my voice, I write better copy, I think harder about support, I communicate better than ever before- and despite all that I ever expected, I feel myself healing from any multitude of things by making this beautiful thing with people that I love, all by ourselves, struggling and scraping and facing doubt constantly- we are learning so much. We are becoming better friends.
What motivates you to continue streaming/creating your podcast?
I don’t think we’ll ever stop. We love making this thing together, and we have so much further left to go. We want to make way more stuff! We are so proud of what we’ve made so far- if I can be bold enough to admit it, it would be a dream to do this for the rest of my life. So we keep going.
What are your favourite TTRPG systems?
WELP at the risk of being biased, our system (we’ve been calling it Orbital Refuse)- it fits me better than anything else. It allows us the freedom to collaboratively build, to move outside of class, to embrace failure spectacularly, and to feel risk in all of our decisions. It has grown with us, and we can’t wait to share it.
Otherwise I’m a big fan of Grant Howitt 1 pagers, edges from Savage Worlds, nearly everything about Mörk Borg (especially the way they invited in indie creators to build amazing supplements), Powered by the Apocalypse for encouraging customization (made a great Joe Dirt spoof character in City of Mists once!), and countless other things. I have a big stack of new stuff to get through, so ask me again in a few months!
Do you think any particular system is more suitable for streamed/audio play as opposed to live games? Why do you think this?
This is a loaded question, because I think everything is circumstantial based on who you and your table are, and what it is that you want to do. Your goal together for the environment that you intend to build is the most important factor of all factors.
I think you can make any system work for you (they are all just tools, or vehicles-), but you have to know your group first and know how you want to dance together.
We started out by playing a super homebrewed version of DnD 5e, but as we grew we realized that this system didn’t really fit what we were trying to do. We wanted to move faster, interact with our world in different ways- depend less on preexisting class structures.
So Dick shared with us the early skeleton of his own game system. It fit us better. It addressed the things that blocked us, and gave us tools to elevate the kind of interactions that we liked.
For us, this works. Maybe it wouldn’t work for you. I think all of that is ok.
Everything that we do is circumstantial within our context. Our years of tight chemistry together, the amount of work we’ve done to understand each other, the kind of improv based play that we like, the fact that we are making a product for entertainment purposes, not a home game. The kind of comedy we like, and the things we need from each other to feel protected. The way we see the world cinematically, so we borrow a lot of media thinking to communicate our goals. This stuff makes sense for us, and the thing we are making. It’s how we play both live on stage, and recorded in our homes.
For us, it comes down to us first.
Are you a part of the LGBTQIA2S+, BIPOC, AAPI, Disabled or any other marginalised community?
We are all currently immigrants. One of us is (cis) female, LGBTQIA2S+, and disabilities like hearing loss and neurodivergence occur within our group.
If yes, is this reflected in the content you create? How important do you think it is for folks of all identities to feel recognised within the streams they watch and podcasts they listen to?
This is recognized within our content because it’s a part of our lives, whether the specific trait belongs to one of us or not.
Our content takes place in space, in the future. I would like to imagine that these things commonly exist there. The future we’ve created still has problems, because working through them in game is how we tell our own stories- but I hope that the real future is less difficult for different identifies to exist peacefully in.
Until then, acknowledgment and acceptance is key.
Of all of the streams or episodes you’ve created, which one was your personal favourite?
We do “Origin arcs” for our characters on Backwater Bastards, and I LOVE them.
Sometimes it takes years to work up to one (we’re slow burners), but they have changed the way we create characters, and they were an important step to helping us be more emotionally intelligent storytellers.
Mine are called CLEO DAY, and the arc is 4 episodes long.
Tell us about your process when setting up for a stream or recording session. Do you have any tips or tricks for other creators in the same space as you?
Without fail we burn through the first hour just chatting. Sometimes we record these bs sessions for our patreon, but most of the time we don’t- and we just try to factor the time footprint in.
Making this thing is a lot of work, and we ride pretty close to burnout most of the time- so it’s to connect and enjoy each others company.
We started doing this just because we were friends- so we have to take time to nourish that.
Shout out a fellow creator! Who in the TTRPG community inspires you? Why do you admire them/their work?
Randy Lovings inspires the hell outta me! He’s a sound designer with an incredible amount of knowledge- and he never falters from the path of kindness.
He learned to build most of the gear that he needs, and he moves forward with huge optimistic passion. I need that reminder sometimes, because I can get discouraged.
He’s supportive, he listens to other people’s work, he’s active in the communities that he loves, and he is constantly trying to help others and pay it forward.
He is going to make it, and if I ever have the opportunity to help, you bet I’m taking it.
What’s the next project people will see from you?
Of course I continue to make Backwater Bastards, but we are always working on new things in our lil cave. (Whether that be new ideas, new mini segments, new merch or what have you!)
But as for me myself- my next big project is getting my arse to MCM London Comic-Con in May! We’re tabling all weekend, giving away a heckton of stuff and doing a few panels!
But that being said- I’m also gearing up to do a few new streams (APs mainly!) with friends, and even thinking about streaming MYSELF!) (YEAH! THAT’S RIGHT! I’ve been streaming on other peoples channels for years now- and now I’m thinking about getting my own???? AHH! I am nervous though, so, we’ll see. 😅)
Are you playing in any TTRPG campaigns at the moment? Tell us about your favourite character!
Right now I’ve got a lot of prerecorded stuff out there on the web- (check out Nat1Fun Running Fey Wild for my grandma-barian, Valore Studios for my emotionally constipated ice witch, sweet lil rock gnome Artificer, EXTREME GOOD HERO LADY HEMINN and more- or Dragons Duel, T4C Studios for game shows, Bowie’s in Spelljammer for my two faced spacehead elf, HECK- there’s so much-)
You get the picture, I stream a little. 😅
(But of course, my favorite will always be Cleo de Cap the human bear and weapons expert, half for the country witticisms but half for the fact that she is who I am proudest to be, of all my characters for my whole life. She is brilliant, she loves hard, and she drinks deep of the pure joy of the littlest things. When they told you anything could be a weapon they were talking about her. 🥰)
What’s your favourite book, TV show, or film?
Oh dang! I’m not gonna be able to pick. I’ve actually been thinking about this recently for days- I think I might have to go with The Expanse for TV, and I’ll get back to you on books and movies because I am in a huge transitional period where I’m not sure if my old favorites are my current favorites anymore. Have you ever had that?? It’s a weird place to be.
Tell us a fact about yourself that others might struggle to believe.
I broke an airplane once.
Which subject do you wish you knew more about?
I live in a state of wanting to know more. I want to know more about GMing, holding whole plots in my head and developing them easily, carpentry, herbalism, mathematics, I wish I could whistle, I’d like to be better at making clothes, physical fitness, business, tying really cool knots, seaweed, picking up languages really quickly, etc.
What is your favourite smell?
Campfire, cold air, blackberry, anything cinnamon, fresh bread, leather, horses, forest, wet leaves, lilac trees.
If you could listen to only one song for the next 7 days, which one would you choose?
Probably that goddamn birthday song from Thor Ragnarok.
If you could give the current chapter of your life a name, what would it be?
THEY DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A LAUNCHPAD
What is the worst gift you have ever received?
It’s always a gift from somebody that doesn’t really know you that should, isn’t it?
What is the strangest food combination you enjoy?
I’m not sure!! I eat so many things that seem weird to somebody, I’ve lived too many places now.
If time, money and skill were no object, what would your ultimate cosplay/Halloween costume be?
So far my favorite cosplay was Bladerunner, but I’d love to make a mech to jump inside!
Would you rather own a horse the size of a cat or a cat the size of a horse?
Where should folks go to find out more about you, and/or check out your content?
You can find me on Twitter at @TAYvanbiljon, or if I get swept up in a wave of chaos and change it, I’m always in my Discord (https://discord.gg/uQHeryHNu8), or findable via www.backwaterbastards.com.
Disclaimer: The information and answers contained in the interview posted above represents the views and opinions of the interviewee only and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of myself (gothHoblin). The appearance of an interview on this website does not constitute an endorsement of the interviewee or their statements.